Can cats have paracetamol?

We’ve all been there, your cat comes in having had a scrape and you think ‘ouch, where are the painkillers?’ Searching through the cupboard you find the world’s favourite painkiller — paracetamol. Please don’t ever be tempted as paracetamol is very dangerous for cats.

Why is paracetamol poisonous to cats?

When humans take paracetamol we have an enzyme in our bodies that breaks it down once it’s done its job. Cats are not able to break down paracetamol safely and so dangerous toxic compounds are rapidly formed in their body. This causes irreversible damage to their red blood vessels and causes a syndrome called ‘methaemaglobinaemia’ where the tongue and gums turn chocolate brown and this, together with liver damage, is often fatal.

What should I do if my cat has eaten paracetamol?

Call your vet immediately or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or hospital, as no dose is too small. There is an antidote called acetylcysteine, which may save your cat’s life if it is given to them early enough. Taking quick action is paramount to your cat’s health.

Image of cat and drugs for dangers of paracetamol to cats article for Vets Now
Cats are not able to break down paracetamol safely and so dangerous toxic compounds are rapidly formed in their body.

What can I do to protect my cat from paracetamol poisoning?

Many over-the-counter pain medications contain paracetamol so it’s best practice to make sure your cat cannot access any human medicines in the house. Just like with children, make sure all medication is locked away in cabinets out of reach of wandering paws.

Medicines that contain paracetamol include some cold and flu remedies, liquid medication such as Calpol. Paracetamol even has a different name in America, where it is called Acetaminophen.

What can I give my cat as a painkiller?

Cats are (obviously) very different to people and it is simply not safe to medicate cats with human medicines. Over-the-counter pain meds designed for humans shouldn’t be given to cats. There are lots of safe cat painkillers that have been developed specifically for felines and these are available from your vet.

If you are worried about any aspect of your cat’s health, please contact your vet in the first instance.

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